Addressing Health Care Proposals Of Democratic Presidential Candidates

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Summariesof several recent opinion pieces that discuss the health care proposals ofDemocratic presidential candidates Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) andBarack Obama (Ill.)appear below.

  • Susan Reimer, Baltimore Sun: Democratic presidential candidates have focused their health care proposals on expansion of health insurance to "people who don't have it," but "I wish a candidate would talk about people who have health care but feel it slipping away," Sun columnist Reimer writes. Employers, in "looking for new ways to economize" and "control rampaging health care costs," have begun to "negotiate prices down with the hospitals and the providers" and are "trying to figure out how" to link premiums to the "good or bad health habits of employees," she adds. "But will companies choose to encourage good health care habits by rewarding people for lowered cholesterol readings or will they penalize employees for ignoring their doctors' orders to lose weight?" Reimer asks (Reimer, Baltimore Sun, 2/5).
  • E.J. Dionne, Washington Post: "Some liberals who support Obama acknowledge privately that many of [Clinton's] positions on domestic issues are more carefully crafted and in some respects more liberal than his," Post columnist Dionne writes, adding that her support of an individual requirement to obtain health insurance is "instructive." Clinton is "right" to claim that "universal coverage will require a mandate of some sort," and "political attacks" on such a mandate by Obama are "wrong" and could "set back the future prospects of health care reform by feeding ammunition to its opponents," Dionne writes. However, according to Dionne, her "advantage is undercut by her repeated refusal" to "specify the penalty" that she would impose on U.S. residents who can afford health insurance but do not purchase coverage. He adds, "Her reticence underscores the political challenge of supporting mandates of any kind." "The larger difference between Clinton and Obama is in their respective theories of change," Dionne concludes. "While Clinton wages a campaign, Obama is preaching a revival" (Dionne, Washington Post, 2/5).
  • David Brooks, New York Times: The debate that Clinton has had with Obama about the need for a health insurance mandate "echoes the debate" that she had with Sen. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) during her failed health care reform efforts in the 1990s, a Times opinion piece by Brooks states. Clinton "set up a war room to oppose Cooper," who had introduced legislation that, unlike the Clinton proposal, "did not include employer mandates to force universal coverage," Brooks writes. According to Brooks, her aides "accused him of crafting his plan in order to raise money from the insurance and hospital industries" and said "he was in league with the for-profit hospitals to crush competitors and monopolize the industry," although "Cooper's centrist health care approach was entirely consistent with his overall philosophy." However, her "effort backfired," and her legislation failed to obtain adequate support in Congress, Brooks writes. During her presidential campaign, Clinton has said that "she's learned the lessons from that failure," but she has "once again" framed the "debate between universal coverage and universal access into a sort of philosophical holy grail, with a party of righteousness and a party of error," Brooks writes. He adds that she has "done it even though she hasn't answered legitimate questions" about an enforcement mechanism for her health insurance mandate (Brooks, New York Times, 2/5).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up foremail delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health PolicyReport is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J.Kaiser Family Foundation.

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